Accidental smallholding

bale and house

The field is currently home to our stroppy female ecological lawn mowers, variety Rouge de l'Ouest / Charolais cross. If you see our page Sheepish Beginnings, you will understand why they are stroppy. Seriously though, they are a good size, manageable, and provide the small amount of organic meat we eat.  

apples bales and wind turbines

Why a walled garden you may ask, when we're in the middle of the country? Simply to protect the produce from the worst of the loose cows, sheep and other assorted wildlife hereabouts, and to offer much needed shelter and a couple of degrees of freedom in the cold winters.

 

Le Vivray is a very rural smallholding of 8.5 acres, with a cider apple orchard for our cider-making adventures, a walled garden (22m x 22m), a spring with a lavoir (wash pond), and a stream running through the wood at the field bottom.

The lavoir area is fenced off, providing a kind of oasis in the middle of an otherwise rather exposed field, with a young arboretum we planted 5 years ago, of oak, elm, alder, beech, and mixed hedging, around the holding pond of ~100 000L. The restored lavoir building houses our off-grid power station, and the oasis (known affectionately as Telly Tubby Land) is also where you will see our 2 x 3kW wind turbines.

 

The part of the barn ("grange") nearest the house is known simply enough as "La Vieille Maison" - the old house - and we have plans to turn it into gite accommodation for our courses. It is pretty much derelict right now, we have just given it a little TLC so far, with the new roof, guttering, drainage, and safe doors.

permaculture plot

Our soil is mostly heavy green clay - of type "make pots out of it" (French: "glaize verte") - but we have supplemented it with our primitive home-made compost over the 4 years we've been naively attempting to coax vegetables out of it. To the point that we can now finally achieve an acceptable harvest, although much of the early planting suffered from the slug rave parties.

In 2012 we lost most of our tomatoes to blight, along with many soft fruit crops (with the notable exception of strawberries!), and many early seedlings simply drowned in the most rainfall recorded for a century - even here in Normandy! The setting of the fruit tree blossom also suffered, being "out of synch" with both the weather pattern and the buzziness of the pollinators. The rain, cold, and lack of bees and other pollinating insects at the right time means that 2012 was not a good one for plums or early apples.

However we seem to have enough beetroot, courgettes, beans, peas, carrots etc to see us through the winter, so we're busy trying out new recipes, and will share them in due course!

 

water iris at stream

© 2014 Echorenovate Sally Woods-Bryan & Leslie Bryan Microengineering